Poll Power

The Voter Education Project and the Movement for the Ballot in the American South

By Evan Faulkenbury

Poll Power

Approx. 216 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 6 halftones

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5200-9
    Published: May 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5131-6
    Published: May 2019

Justice, Power, and Politics

Paperback Available May 2019, but pre-order your copy today!

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Creating and sustaining a social movement costs money. In the early 1960s, after years of grassroots organizing, civil rights activists convinced nonprofit foundations to donate in support of voter education and registration efforts. One result was the Voter Education Project (VEP), which, formally begun in 1962, showed far-reaching results almost immediately and organized the groundwork that eventually led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In communities across the South, the VEP catalyzed existing campaigns; it paid for fuel, booked rallies, bought food for volunteers, and paid people to canvass neighborhoods. Despite this progress, powerful conservatives and segregationists in Congress weaponized the federal tax code to undercut the important work of the VEP.

Though local power had long existed in the hundreds of southern towns and cities that saw organized civil rights action, the VEP was vital to converting that power into political motion. Evan Faulkenbury offers a much-needed explanation of the crucial role philanthropy, outside funding, and tax policy can play in the lifecycle of social movements.

About the Author

Evan Faulkenbury is assistant professor of history at SUNY Cortland.
For more information about Evan Faulkenbury, visit the Author Page.


"This important contribution focuses on a neglected yet critical episode in the civil rights movement, explaining well how an unexpected alliance of politicians, philanthropists, and civil rights activists launched voter registration projects and achieved important victories despite segregationists in Congress and state and local governments."--Olivier Zunz, University of Virginia

"Faulkenbury crafts a riveting narrative about an all-important and largely neglected chapter in history--the significance of the Voter Education Project in the civil rights movement."--David Carter, Auburn University